A chat with Hans-Curt Flemming

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Nature Reviews Microbiology and to give our readers a glimpse behind the curtains, we asked a few of our past authors about their views of microbiology, the journal and their experiences of working with the journal.
A chat with Hans-Curt Flemming

In your opinion, what have been the most noteworthy advances in the field of microbiology research in the past 15 years? Looking forward, what do you expect to be the most exciting advances in the next few years?

For me, the most noteworthy advance in microbiology is the advent of metagenomics and the bioinformatics behind it. It opens up doors to microbial ecology in so many fields earlier sealed for detailed investigation and understanding. 

Do you have a favourite article that was published in Nature Reviews Microbiology, and if so, can you tell us why?

I have a few favourite articles in NRM, # 1 is 'Microbial structuring of marine ecosystems' by Farooq Azam and Francesca Malfatti (Nature Reviews Microbiology 5, 782–791 (2007)). It gives such a comprehensive overview on the influence of microorganisms on marine ecosystems, plus, it has some poetry in it, like a light whiff, and reveals a very creative and visionary mind.

Other favourites are the papers of Antje Boetius on microbial ecology of the cryosphere (Microbial ecology of the cryosphere: sea ice and glacial habitats. Antje Boetius, Alexandre M. Anesio, Jody W. Deming, Jill A. Mikucki & Josephine Z. Rapp. Nature Reviews Microbiology 13, 677–690 (2015)), in which she details microbial life in ice in a fascinating way, inviting to read and (I am still capable oft hat) marvel.

This applies also to the review of Tom Battin on stream biofilms (The ecology and biogeochemistry of stream biofilms. Tom J. Battin, Katharina Besemer, Mia M. Bengtsson, Anna M. Romani & Aaron I. Packmann. Nature Reviews Microbiology 14, 251–263 (2016)), where biofilms are considered as a „skin“ of stream ecosystems.

 These are my top 3, while many other reviews have inspired me and are highly valued.

You have written for Nature Reviews Microbiology in the past, can you tell us about the experience?

My experience with writing for NRM is more than positive. I was invited, encouraged and what I most appreciated was the care and accuracy of the editing – an example was that you saved me from an embarrassing mistake in my last review on the emergent properties of biofilms. Last not least, I was glad about the sympathetic patience, because writing took such a long time. Sometimes the cooperation was unusual. An example is the birth process of our last review (Biofilms: an emergent form of bacterial life. Hans-Curt Flemming, Jost Wingender, Ulrich Szewzyk, Peter Steinberg, Scott A. Rice & Staffan Kjelleberg. Nature Reviews Microbiology 14, 563–575 (2016)): In May 2016, I was travelling with my wife through the National Parks in the US Southwest, changing hotel every day. And sure enough, the comments on the manuscript reached me because I was foolish enough to read mails during the trip. My wife looked at me with this special look and said: you don´t work during the day! But the preparations for printing were on the home stretch and I was keen not to postpone the process. There was only one alternative: the night. Thus, it took me some hours in about 8 nights to properly meet all the details and to harmonize the responses with my co-authors. And in order to avoid disturbing her, I sat every night in the bathroom with dim light, pondered about the arguments, consulted the Internet and wrote the revisions. After I had finished that, I needed one day off which was granted. The trip was gorgeous. And the NRM team was as happy as I was.

A particular positive experience with writing for NRM is the process, in which we could outline concepts and develop them to maturity suitable to be published. Every article took more than a year to accomplish, and it was a very inspiring process, shaping my view on microbiology.

Read the Review by Hans-Curt Flemming and colleagues here:

Biofilms: an emergent form of bacterial life. Hans-Curt Flemming, Jost Wingender, Ulrich Szewzyk, Peter Steinberg, Scott A. Rice & Staffan Kjelleberg Nature Reviews Microbiology 14, 563–575 (2016)

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